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samosa

game ideas vs story ideas

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This is just a rant of mine, Im hoping to start some dicussion on the subject. Anyway why do so many people new to the game development scene always try to sell game ideas? If you want to hook people on a game wouldnt it be better to create an elabourate story with many twists, turns, and literary devices? As an example, I think of a game like Max Payne. Yes they had a cool game idea, the whole bullet time thing. But I believe that the best part of the whole game was the story. The way they depict Max as a tortured soul out for revenge for what happpened to his family. It makes him a stronger character and that in turn, I believe, makes the better game. Another game that comes to mind is Mafia. We already had gta3 so the idea of a huge city to explore wasnt its most appealing factor. Neither were the great graphics, it was the fact that you the player were able to play through a great story, sort of like being in the movie "The GodFather". It was great, the missions fit the story perfectly and the characters were believeable. They also had a lot of twists and turns in the story, which I believe is what really made Mafia a great game. Well my rant is over...for now, later. ,Matt -= kill one your a murderer, kill thousands your a conquerer =-

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I think it''s because they want to see the game they have in their minds a reality. But, they don''t know how, and probably don''t want to learn how, so even if they sell the idea the gain money from that.

It''s that they want to see their idea turned into a game.

---------------------->
Nothing in the world is the way it should be; that''s why we, the champions, exist and live for: HOPE.

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Where do I post my story idea?

...

Seriously, this site caters much more to game programmers than it does to story line people. Sure there is a game writer forum, but that is just one compared to the 13+ that are specific to programming. People who program are more interested in programming a feature they are thinking of.

just my 2 sense

Thermodynamics
Hot, moving stuff.

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I agree... for the most part. The best games, however, occur when you get a great story - like Max Payne - a great (read NEW AND EASY TO USE) game idea - like Max Payne - and great graphics (particularly textures) - like Max Payne.

In case you can''t tell, I liked Max Payne. (Try playing the nightmare / OD sequences with surround sound and a decent video card... at 2:00 in the morning).

My point is, though, that the most successful games will have at least two of these three. Want an example other than Max Payne? OK...

WarCraft III:
Story: LotR-style RPG, sequel to a highly-popular storyline
Game Idea: 3d RTS with RPG-style heroes
Graphics: Being able to run a fully-3d RTS, with such great artwork (particularly textures), with Blizzard''s traditional aim of low system requirements.

Homeworld:
Story: Intriguing space venture, with the future of an entire race in your hands, searching for their lost home planet.
Game Idea: COMPLETELY 3d space strategy.
Graphics: Not very high-poly models, but absolutely beautiful gameplay, to the point of having a mystic aura about it.

It''s the toughest thing in the world when you''re working on a game (unless you''re working on a multi-million dollar budget for an infamous gaming company like Sierra or Blizzard) to get all three of these things accomplished. It''s extremely difficult to coordinate the effort needed to make all three aspects stunning enough to have a blockbuster computer game. That''s what game design - and therefore this forum, to a great extent - is meant to do: making sure you keep all three goals in sight and feasability.

That''s enough from me.

- TythosEternal

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quote:
Original post by samosa
This is just a rant of mine, Im hoping to start some dicussion on the subject. Anyway why do so many people new to the game development scene always try to sell game ideas? If you want to hook people on a game wouldnt it be better to create an elabourate story with many twists, turns, and literary devices?


Yes and no. I think both have to be developed, then refined until they appear as one.

quote:

As an example, I think of a game like Max Payne. Yes they had a cool game idea, the whole bullet time thing. But I believe that the best part of the whole game was the story. The way they depict Max as a tortured soul out for revenge for what happpened to his family. It makes him a stronger character and that in turn, I believe, makes the better game.


Yeah, that was a kewl feature. And the story did a lot to engage you and get you to feel empathy for the character, but like I said, you have to develop both and then seamlessly integrate them, imo, to have a quality dev.

Another game that comes to mind is Mafia. We already had gta3 so the idea of a huge city to explore wasnt its most appealing factor. Neither were the great graphics, it was the fact that you the player were able to play through a great story, sort of like being in the movie "The GodFather". It was great, the missions fit the story perfectly and the characters were believeable. They also had a lot of twists and turns in the story, which I believe is what really made Mafia a great game.

Well my rant is over...for now, later.

,Matt

-= kill one your a murderer, kill thousands your a conquerer =-

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quote:
Original post by Thermodynamics

Seriously, this site caters much more to game programmers than it does to story line people. Sure there is a game writer forum, but that is just one compared to the 13+ that are specific to programming. People who program are more interested in programming a feature they are thinking of.




I agree, this site is more for programmers then anyone else. However, instead of these programmers trying to recruit people to help make the game with amazing graphics, they would probably be more successful with having a good well thought out story. Theres nothing wrong with having cool graphics, it just seams that all the games proposed here have no substance. They are just graphics and novices dont seem to be getting that if you want to make a fun game you will get further with a good story than good graphics(which dont even compare to pro teams).

,Matt

-= kill one your a murderer, kill thousands your a conquerer =-

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quote:
Original post by samosa
This is just a rant of mine, Im hoping to start some dicussion on the subject. Anyway why do so many people new to the game development scene always try to sell game ideas? If you want to hook people on a game wouldnt it be better to create an elabourate story with many twists, turns, and literary devices?

As an example, I think of a game like Max Payne. Yes they had a cool game idea, the whole bullet time thing. But I believe that the best part of the whole game was the story. The way they depict Max as a tortured soul out for revenge for what happpened to his family. It makes him a stronger character and that in turn, I believe, makes the better game.

Another game that comes to mind is Mafia. We already had gta3 so the idea of a huge city to explore wasnt its most appealing factor. Neither were the great graphics, it was the fact that you the player were able to play through a great story, sort of like being in the movie "The GodFather". It was great, the missions fit the story perfectly and the characters were believeable. They also had a lot of twists and turns in the story, which I believe is what really made Mafia a great game.

Well my rant is over...for now, later.

,Matt

-= kill one your a murderer, kill thousands your a conquerer =-



Games sell, storys keep you going. When you look for a game (or at leat when i do) the first thing i will look at is the game itself, the whole story aspect is just somthing i get interested in along the way, most of the time at least. In my opinion the story apect of the game can not exist without the game, but the game can exist without the story. Because of this most storys come after the idea for the game itself, and not the other way around.
Thinking up a story and just a story that is probably a very good idea though, especially for an rpg where the gameplay usually is second in importance. Get the story than build a game around it, because after the story whats left is just battle systems and all that technical stuff.

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A good game design has both game mechanics and story. These days, when the market is very slowly starting to wake up and realize the importance of the story in a game, you really can''t have one without the other.

I too loved Max Payne''s near-perfect mix of storytelling, action, and innovative game mechanics.

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Brian Lacy
ForeverDream Studios

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brian@foreverdreamstudios.com

"I create. Therefore I am."

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Despite what I may have said earlier I no longer think that its a bad thing that people arent trying to recruit with story ideas, its the fact that almost all indie games I see have no content. Everyone is hung up on graphics, if indie developers took the time to develop better stories and characters we would probably see a lot more people being able to be successful with only developing indie games.

,Matt

-= kill one your a murderer, kill thousands your a conquerer =-

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Once again people are deluding themselves into thinking that good stories = good games.

Go watch a movie or read a book - or stop calling this form of entertainment you like "games", call it an interactive story instead.

The real quality of a GOOD game is a game independant of story - but the problem is, people don''t actually want games, they want stories.

So you have tripe like "Enter the Matrix" being sold SOLELY on the fact that it''s a licensed property. The game means absolutely nothing.

Or a Max Payne, where you have 2 hours of gameplay BECAUSE THE STORY COULDN''T SUPPORT MORE - or rather, the gameplay was limited to the content, not to the actual game play.

Or, god forbid, a Final Fantasy where you might as well let the "game" play itself. All "discovery" is artificial. All exploration is forced. All plot advancement is predetermined, scheduled, and thrust upon you, like it or not.

It''s coming to the point where "replay value" is an oxymoron. It''s no more "replay value" than it is "repeat value". And my experience is homogonized into the experiences of everyone else who plays the game, because it doesn''t matter "how I play", it just matters "that I''ve played".

But, again, it''s what people want - just like their Hollywood summer blockbusters, their random bits of apropriated culture, and the latest Top 40 hits. Too afraid of a real "game", they have to wrap it in vestements of the familiar (story).

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I think you can divide it up into a few categories:

Game as Game: Pong, Checkers, Tetris, Baseball.
Game as Experience: Most video games.
Game as Story: Max Payne, Half-Life, many adventure games
Story as Game: "Interactive Movies," Final Fantasy etc.

Here''s the main differences as I see them:

Pure games are abstracted enough so that one can''t justifiably claim to be doing anything but playing a game. In a video game context, this doesn''t usually appeal to most people as much as the next one...

Games that work on an experience are selling not just gameplay, but an appealing world, theme, or setting that the player may live vicariously through: "I''m a pilot/thug/knight/sorcerer/mercenary! I''m in a ghetto/jungle/spaceship/dungeon/castle!" or "I rule a country/an army/the world/a federation of planets!"

Games that are a story have a gameplay whose content cannot simply feed off of their setting, but require specific events to develop gameplay off of. This can cut a fine line with the next one:

Stories that are games are aiming primarily for the storytelling experience, unlike games that are stories. The gameplay aspect tends to feel somewhat tacked on or pushed aside in favor of the plotline. (I don''t mean to overly criticize such games, though)

There is a lot of blurring between these definitions, especially with respect to adventure games; Myst, for example, is mostly in gameplay terms about the abstract puzzles, but it also has a beautiful setting and something of a story to drive it along, wheras the Lucasarts adventure games tend to focus heavily on the story and integrate the puzzles into it. I think they hold up pretty well for the most part, though.

But as I pointed out in my first listing, most games are selling an experience - you play the game and at the end you can tell your own story. And a lot of the great ones are able to fit an enormous amount of play value in without becoming heavily abstracted(less readily appealing to players) or reliant on their stories(which can get expensive). But there are games working at both extremes that have been very successful...my guess is it''s probably just easier and more practical to design in the "middle".

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I''d say both a great idea and a great story are even better for selling a game.

But as for a great story being more important, I disagree. A lot of great games don''t have a story at all, because it''d get in the way of the game idea, rather than helping. Often the story is just something poorly done and superfluous. That doesn''t help gameplay... like the anonymous poster said with regards to Max Payne.

A good game should be reinforced by the story, not limited. Strong stories often make successful games, even if the gameplay is a little stunted at times. And often strong gameplay can carry a weak story. Look at Doom. And they actually made novels based on the story of that.

Ok, to get back to your point, it''s really hard to sell the story unless it''s already some movie license or book thing or something, simply because the story alone doesn''t make the core gameplay happen. Look at all the crappy Star Trek games out there. Sure, there''s a diamond in the rough like Elite Force sometimes, but Star Trek is a hugely established franchise. So''s Final Fantasy, albeit from a very different path.

There are three things I remember about Max Payne. The story, the bullet time, and the creepy dream sequences. The story sequences and overarching theme was a positive to the publisher (probably), but I think what probably carried it was the bullet time and the cinema style (sniper rifle bullet view, etc.)

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Remember:

a game with good gameplay and a bad story sells
a game with a good story and bad gameplay doesn''t

we''re in the business of going games. Pieces of interactive entertainment, which are there first to entertain interactively. So i believe although certain games NEED a good story, they could be extremely playable without one. I personally believe that a story is there to drive the gameplay foreward and to give you more immersion so that what you do has more meaning to you.

an example of a great game with a simplistic (not crap) story. Is Zelda: OoT. Although there are two tists, one is totally predictable and the rest of the story is pretty cliched. but it works wonders with tha fantestic gameplay at hand

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quote:
Original post by samosa
If you want to hook people on a game wouldnt it be better to create an elabourate story with many twists, turns, and literary devices?



No. In fact, I''d almost go as far as to recommend the opposite.

Games with strong stories tend to lack replay value, mainly due to their linearity. Even in games with branching storylines, the player still finds himself retreading old ground for much of the game.

The really enduring games are those which have good gameplay, and the story line is either completely absent or simply optional. Where''s the story in Chess?



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I agree.
Where''s the story in Tetris ? Pacman ?

However, best games to me are those with a great gameplay (most important) nice graphics (important) and great story.

But truth is gameplay is still king.
Half life : good gfx, good story, great gameplay = great game.
OutCast : great gfx, great story, great gameplay = greatest game.
Final Fantasy : good gfx, good story, poor gameplay = poor game.
Tetris: ok gfx, no story, great gameplay = great game.

See the pattern

Stories are an enhancement, and only if they don''t detract you from the gameplay.

On the replayability side, strong stories tend to kill it, no matter how good the gameplay is.

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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I actually completly disagree with many of you. A strong storyline is what really makes me like a game. Take system shock 2, one of my favorite games ever. Graphics, physics etc aren''t very good at all, but the story is extremly interesting and made me want to go on and on.

Another favorite games is Final Fantasy 7. It really has an amazing story, which a linear rpg needs to have for people to play it. You really start to like the characters. The story has many unexpected twists. It doesn''t really have any replay value, but I used about 40 hours on it, so that didn''t bother me.

Recently I played through Freelancer. The gameplay wasn''t very good at all, mostly just trying to follow other ships and shoot them. After playing it for a while(i was bored) the story started to unfold. It was a bit "x-files" at times, but the thing I liked was the the sides turned many times. First you''re fighting "The Order", then suddenly your own turn against you, then you fight for the order, then suddenly the enemy it a alien race etc etc. Made me play a whole night and thus missing my lectures.

As a conclusion, in my opinion a good story can really save a single player game. But then again, I''m the kind of person that can''t put a really exciting book down!

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First off, let me say that I think that game designers should wear both creative hats and technical hats. When I first started visiting this forum, I had just begun studying programming so that I could try to understand what the programmers would need. I wanted to make sure that I could explain my ideas and concepts as well as possible to the technical people as well as look at their work and make sure that what they were doing fit the feel of my game. Without having any technical knowledge, what you have in mind may be totally different than how the programmers perceive what you are trying to tell them.

Secondly, in the mind of many game publishers, I think they feel that anyone can have a game story, but only a smaller portion can actually develop a game. That doesn''t mean it will necessarily be a good story, or a good game idea, but ideas are a dime a dozen. Also, many game publishing companies and development studios I think have very narrow ideas of what sells. Unfortunately, the market is partially to blame. I see many parallels between the game industry and the comics industry. Before "The Watchmen" and "The Dark Knight Returns" came out, people saw comics as a child''s medium and not capable of putting out thought provoking stories. AFter that though, comics started receiving more priase, but it''s still tied with the stigma of being an adolescent teen''s form of entertainment. Games are still stuck at that level despite the greatest age group buying games being in the 25-35 bracket.

I happen to love a good story, but the problem is that it''s tough to sell something for 50$ when it has little replay value. I think that the word "game" is too limiting, and I like to say interactive experience instead. Notice I don''t even say entertainment because I think that''s too limiting as well. Ultimately, when we buy something that''s a luxury item, we want to feel better in some way shape or form. Maybe we just want to escape, maybe we want to feel happy, maybe we want to feel wiser or smarter. To say that games are only about "fun" is as limiting and blind as saying that comics are only for teens (when anyone gets defensive about games being art and saying they should be about "fun" only, I realize how short-sighted that person is).

So if you can make a game with an engaging story, more power to you, but remember that people want to get their money''s worth out of something. Paying 50$ for a story is hard to swallow. In my own game plans, the game will be an atypical wargame that has a background story attached. The game will be free, but the story will actually cost you (but no more than a book). I''ve always believed that game background should be developed first, then the game idea, and finally the game implementation....unfortunately, it seems that many come up with game idea, then game implemenation, then game background and story.



They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Benjamin Franklin

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